Thursday, May 31, 2012

A Bicentennial Moment: Fairport Harbor Hometown Sketches

Fairport Harbor's location on Lake Erie has allowed it to witness not only nature's fiercest tempests but to participate in its maritime history.  Today's blog features three men of the lake, all from Fairport.  Two of them G. F. Babcock and N.M.Rasmussen served as commanders of the USLSS - Station Fairport, the third Edward Stange and his tug 'Ohio' safeguarded the harbor.

                                                  George Francis Babcock
Born in December 1845, George Francis Babcock and his older brother Joseph C. are well known maritime names in Fairport lore.  George Francis or 'Frank' had humble beginnings.  His parents owned a grocery and supply store near the local docks.  In 1863, Frank began his sailing career.  Various commissions and appointments on sailing vessels led to his being appointed asst. lighthouse keeper at Fairport Harbor in 1871.  In September 1876, the US Lifesaving Station at Fairport was built and Frank was tendered the office of keeper.  He served in this post for twenty two years, participating in more than 300 rescues and nearly $3,000,000 of cargo retrieval.  He died in September 1898.

                                                 Niels M. Rasmussen
Capt. N. Rasmussen ( Eagle Street) was one of the first US Coastguardsmen, when that branch of government service was established in 1915.  Previous to his government experience, he sailed on the Lakes as quarter-master for numerous schooners.  His first visit to Fairport was in 1872.  Rasmussen served in the US Navy on the USS Wolverine/ Michigan, served six years as surfman at Station Erie, Pa. and took command of USLSS-Station Fairport in February 1899 until its end in 1915.  Rasmussen and Babcock, both of Fairport were the station's only keepers in its history.  Rasmussen even served as Mayor of Fairport in his lifetime.

                                                Edward Stange
Capt. Edward Stange was born in Fairport in 1892.  At the age of 16, Edward had begun his maritime career.  From steamers to stationary engineer his experiences grew.  Finally in 1929, Edward accepted a position with the Great Lakes Towing Company.  Given 'command' of the tug 'Ohio', his adept handling of the giant steamers benefited the entire harbor communities he served.  Stange served Fairport as a member of Village Council.  His tenure also saw the construction of the village water plant and other civic projects.

The stories of all three captains are shared in archival photos, artifacts, and primary sources.  They are housed at the Fairport Harbor Lighthouse and Marine Museum which is open Wednesdays, Saturdays, and Sundays thru September..  2012 celebrates the 200th anniversary of the Village of Fairport Harbor.  Fall lectures, museum collections, and special programs will share the stories that are part of the ever evolving history of Lake County's hidden gem- Grandon (1812), Fairport(1836), Fairport Harbor (1959).

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